2.1 It’s a New Century for the AMS: What’s New with the Education Program for 2020 and Beyond?

Monday, 13 January 2020: 2:00 PM
258C (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
Wendy Abshire, American Meteorological Society, Washington, DC; and E. W. Mills, B. A. Blair, and C. Kauffman

Formally established in 1990, The American Meteorological Society Education Program, like the AMS itself, continues to evolve for the 2020’s and beyond. Throughout 2019, the centennial year of the Society, the Education Program continued to simultaneously offer and modernize all five of our highly-respected teacher professional development courses and enhance our undergraduate curriculum package offerings in weather, ocean, and climate science. Additionally, we supported broader AMS initiatives like the implementation of the new and very exciting Certified AMS Teacher (CAT) program and the second year of the Teacher Travel Grant program for teachers to participate in AMS Annual Meetings. We also pursued new opportunities to further the reach and impact of the AMS in K-12 and undergraduate education arenas. All this exciting work is introduced below and will be detailed in our presentation.

Through the years, the AMS DataStreme, Project Atmosphere, and the Maury Project professional development courses for K-12 educators have collectively directly trained more than 22,500 teachers to be more confident in teaching weather, ocean, and climate science in their classrooms. A key component of all AMS Courses is the inclusion of near real-time datasets in the coursework we offer. As has been previously reported in AMS meetings, owing to the new partnership with California University of Pennsylvania (Cal U) all courses are now facilitated through a course management system, Desire2Learn (D2L). Each semester, students continue to increase their use of D2L features and our national mentor network more frequently leverages the accompanying Zoom video conferencing system to facilitate team communication and teacher learning at a distance. In spring 2019, we started a DataStreme Mentor Team apprentice program to prepare past AMS course participants to be new DataStreme leaders and we also made substantial progress mapping our modules to NGSS standards. With new NASA funding added to the existing NOAA grant, Project Atmosphere 2019 added NASA expertise and natural disaster content to the coursework. For the first time the course even included a pre-workshop blogging activity (see poster in this conference by Baugher, et al. for more detail.) We are in the early planning stages of making some significant changes to the highly-respected Maury Project course in physical oceanography for 2020 and beyond as well.

As the program has acted to rectify recent past funding shortfalls, one of the necessary steps has been to evolve our course fee structure to a more sustainable model. As recently as 2016, all our courses were provided completely free to participants. Since then we have staggered the implementation of course fees for all 5 graduate courses for teachers. As of fall semester 2019, DataStreme courses are provided to participants for $350/course for AMS members, and $450 for non-members. Still a tremendous value for 3 graduate credits (made possible through sustained partial grant support from NOAA and the AMS and our partnership with Cal U), these costs include all curriculum materials, a paired mentor to guide teacher engagement with their team throughout the semester, and cover the academic fees associated with course delivery. For the fully-funded Project Atmosphere and the Maury Project summer graduate courses, which are highly sought after and are competitive to participate in, course costs are less. For these two opportunities, participants pay just the $150 academic fee upon acceptance, but also receive full travel support and stipends that exceed course fees. Evidence suggests that the addition of participant costs has aided student retention. Our next goal is to establish a need-based scholarship fund to aid educators who are unable to access professional development funds to cover course costs.

Improvements were also made this past year to our undergraduate curriculum program. The updated Ocean Studies package was released and adopted by many in time for use in the 2018-2019 academic year and has been favorably received. Likewise, an update to even more popular Weather Studies is now underway and the 7th edition, with many improvements including more satellite meteorology, will be available for the 2020-2021 academic year. In addition to improving course content, we improved our delivery and access in several important ways. We introduced a “Single Sign On” system, so that students purchasing AMS course material now automatically and seamlessly gain access to the associated RealTime Portal. Additionally, with the help of colleagues at NOAA and UCAR’s Unidata program, we completed an essential transition in our real time data product services to an AMS controlled server in the Cloud.

Driven by recent funding challenges and the opportunities associated with the changing nature of educational endeavors on all fronts, an external review of the AMS Education Program was planned and held in the first quarter of 2019. The blue ribbon panel’s report issued in April was quite positive. It suggested ways to further strengthen existing programs and provided suggestions for possible new opportunities. Several of those, including stronger support of Discipline Based Educational Research (DBER), and specifically Atmospheric Science Educational Research (ASER), were acted on with our team submitting new grant proposals that we very much hope to have good news to share about at the 2020 AMS Centennial meeting.

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